It was not long before some wag christened PTPHs “Pressure to Plead Hearings”. My experience of them would suggest the initials may in fact stand for “Problems That Persisted Historically” or “Prosecution Tried, Prosecution Haven’t”.
Time and time again PTPHs are not in a position to go ahead. The reason? The same as it ever was – an overstretched Prosecution Service have not been able to upload the necessary information to the DCS system.
Where is my evidence for this? The observations and experience of myself and my colleagues on a daily basis. Recently I have had the PTPH which was adjourned because the vital telephone evidence and the charts which explained the evidence had not been uploaded to the system. There was a valiant attempt to upload it the night before, which in itself encountered a problem as nobody had created an “Exhibits” section for it to be uploaded to.
The valiant attempt failed. It appears to be a common experience that many documents seem to have been uploaded but in fact just appear as a URL. The PTPH was adjourned. The problem that has persisted historically still persisted – evidence that was prepared and ready was not served on the defence in good time. It is just the method of failed delivery that has changed.
And “the defendant knows whether he did it or not” was not enough in the case of a multi-layered conspiracy count.
As I have said before, there is just not sufficient time built into the timetable to provide an overstretched and under resourced CPS to manage the work involved in dealing with these cases. The rigidity built into the timetable is a recipe for wasted hearings.
Let me give you an example, again from my own experience. The defence and the prosecution are fully engaged. The Prosecution write to the court asking for the PTPH to be delayed as the ABE transcript was not prepared yet and it was needed to prepare the indictment. The transcript would be with them seven days after the PTPH was due to take place, thereafter they needed a little time to consider this, draft the indictment and serve it on the defence.
The defence, more engaged than Liz Taylor, also wrote to the court to inform them that they fully understood the Prosecution application. What is more, the defence indicated that the defendant would be pleading guilty but could only do so when he knew what he was charged with. The result? The hearing took place on the designated day and was adjourned. A PTPH has to take place within 29 to 35 days. And with a civil service-esque, metronomic rigidity this strict timetable was applied to guarantee inefficiency.
Oh, and on the day the case was adjourned to for plea, the defendant was produced by videolink (to save time and be efficient) but with insufficient time for the hearing to embrace the sentencing of the defendant, so it was adjourned to a third hearing for him to be produced and, eventually, sentenced.
This slavish adherence to an arbitrary timetable is RIDICULOUS. And yes, it is so ridiculous I am beginning to get a bit shouty about it. BECAUSE IT SEEMS NOBODY WITH THE POWER TO CHANGE THE SYSTEM LISTENS TO US!!
I was reading the preamble to a police case summary the other day which asks police officers to summarise all the “key evidence” and defines “key evidence” as being that which “establishes every element of the the offence and that the defendant committed the offence with the necessary criminal intent”. If the police are at the stage of writing a case summary they are in possession of evidence capable of establishing the ingredients of the offence.
It is this key evidence which should be served, not a case summary. How many times have I seen a case summary describe how the defendant has admitted the offence in interview when he has done no such thing? Countless.
Give me the evidence then give me time to advise. Then give me a listing regime which means I can spend the necessary time considering and advising with the safety of a reasonable prospect that I can do the PTPH and the trial. This will get you early engagement. This will get you early guilty pleas.
Is anyone listening?